2007 ECU Men's Tennis Preview
Jan. 19, 2007
GREENVILLE, N.C. - If one glances at last season's record and then at the current roster for the East Carolina men's tennis team, you might be tempted to immediately write this year's squad off. While it is true that there are no seniors and five newcomers on the Pirates' roster this spring, head coach Shawn Heinchon believes that this is a group that will fight harder than its opponents and even surprise some of its competition.
"Having five freshmen that comprise arguably the best recruiting class in the history of the ECU men's program has been very unique," Heinchon said. "Our new guys have not only done really well on their own but they have helped push our upperclassmen as well. We've discussed many times as a team that we are flat-out going to work harder than whoever we play."
While the squad's record last year might not have been optimal, Heinchon knows that the best way to achieve success is to leave the past behind and focus on the season ahead. He believes that this year's team is just that - a team.
"You hear coaches talk about the importance of being a team and the things that a group can accomplish as a team," Heinchon explained. "After being around our players in the fall, I now know exactly what they are talking about. These guys are truly a team in every sense of the word. There are no egos on this team plus they have great love for one another. This gives them an amazing passion for improvement and great pride in East Carolina University."
If the fall season is any indication, the Pirates are well on their way to improving on last year's 8-14 record.
"As a team, we had some great results in the fall," Heinchon stated. "The guys did a great job of putting the work in and after a very successful fall campaign. I feel we have the ability to win at all spots. In the past, I didn't feel that we could put any one of nine guys in the lineup and win. This year, we will be just as strong at the six as we will be at the one."
Heinchon also feels that doubles play will be an asset to the squad.
"In college tennis, doubles play a pivotal role in your team's success," Heinchon said. "We have nine great doubles players that can play with anyone. If we can play with the same effort and intensity this spring as we did in the fall, this will be one of our best qualities as a team."
Youth will definitely be served this season as Heinchon will look to his underclassmen to help guide his program to the next level. The play of sophomores Aleksey Kochetov and Brian Walters, as well as freshman Matt Peeler, will be vital to the team's success.
"Aleksey played one or two all of last spring and that experience alone will make him that much better at the top of our lineup this year," Heinchon said. "You have to love a guy like him. He simply just gets it done out there.
"Brian can win at any spot in singles or doubles," Heinchon added. "His ability to be aggressive gives him a chance to beat anyone. He went 4-3 in the fall against some great players and he just lays it on the line in every match we play. Matt went 6-3 in singles this fall and 5-2 in doubles, which was the best record on the team. He does a great job of making people beat him and he can play anywhere in the lineup."
The spring schedule will see the Pirates host in-state rival UNC Wilmington while the team will also travel to Orlando, Fla., to battle Conference USA foes Memphis, UAB and UCF. In all, the Pirates will host eight dual matches at the ECU Tennis Complex in 2007.
"We have a tough, but not impossible schedule," Heinchon continued. "I think we can do very well this spring. The teams that we have on our schedule will give us an opportunity to gauge our progress as a program."
Despite the team's youth and inexperience, this spring could shape up to be memorable for the Pirates.
"This spring is going to be a lot of fun for us as a team and as a program," Heinchon concluded. "I've not been around a group of guys that are willing to work this hard."
ECU will open the spring season at the VCU Invitational in Richmond, Va. this weekend.